Rumour Has It: Isco and Mariano to make way for Eriksen at Real Madrid

By Sports Desk October 22, 2019

Christian Eriksen was rumoured to be close to leaving Tottenham at the beginning of the season.

Real Madrid were among the clubs interested in the Dane, whose contract expires in 2020, but a move did not materialise before the end of the transfer window.

But that has not deterred the Spanish giants, with Zinedine Zidane willing to move two fringe players away from them Santiago Bernabeu to get a deal done for the 27-year-old.

 

TOP STORY - LOS BLANCOS PAVING WAY FOR ERIKSEN

Real Madrid could reignite their interest in Christian Eriksen in the January transfer window, AS reports a move will only happen if Madrid dispense of two players.

Isco and Mariano Diaz are understood to be the most likely to be sacrificed.

Mariano is yet to make a single appearance this season but could command a fee of around €20million, while Isco's two LaLiga starts came in the draw against Real Valladolid in August and last weekend's loss to Mallorca.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is being eyed up by Crystal Palace for a January switch across London, according to the Daily Star.

- El Mundo reports Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have ended their dispute over the transfer of Antoine Griezmann with an extra €15m changing hands.

- The Daily Mail claim Arsenal are in pole position to sign RB Leipzig's France Under-21 defender Dayot Upamecano.

- Italy boss Roberto Mancini has not ruled out a return to the national team for veteran duo Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi as he shapes his squad for Euro 2020.

- The Sun says Juventus and Atletico Madrid are chasing 19-year-old West Bromwich Albion defender Nathan Ferguson.

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    This most peculiar of Premier League seasons resumes this weekend with leaders Everton facing Southampton – and a notable nemesis.

    Champions Liverpool tackle an out-of-sorts Sheffield United and last season's runners-up Manchester City meet West Ham, who produced that utterly amazing comeback against Tottenham last week.

    Spurs are good value to bounce back against Burnley, particularly given Harry Kane's recent record, and Hugo Lloris might fancy a first clean sheet of the season.

    There's also the small matter of Manchester United versus Chelsea, where Bruno Fernandes will hope to keep racking up those fantasy points. He's just one of our Opta-powered tips for you this week.

    HUGO LLORIS

    Spurs will want to get that collapse against West Ham out of their system swiftly, and a trip to Burnley might just be exactly what they need.

    The Clarets have only beaten Spurs twice in 12 Premier League meetings and Jose Mourinho has never lost to them in nine games as a manager.

    Lloris will hope this is the moment for a first shutout of the season. He's certainly earned one: of Premier League keepers to play at least 10 games since August 2018, only Emiliano Martinez (81 per cent) has a better save percentage than Lloris (75.4 per cent). Lloris has saved 193 of the 252 most recent shots on target he has faced.

     

    AARON CRESSWELL

    If you're looking for full-back value, look no further than Aaron Cresswell.

    Okay, West Ham are likely to concede at least one goal against Manchester City, but Cresswell has more assists (three) and more chances created (12) than any other Premier League defender in 2020-21.

    And City are not exactly impregnable at the back – they have already conceded seven times this term.

     

    ANDY ROBERTSON

    Andy Robertson is probably the safest swap for those having to take Virgil van Dijk out of their defences.

    Liverpool's left-back has more assists (three) and more overall goal involvements (he's also scored twice) since the restart in June than any other Premier League defender.

    The Reds face Sheffield United, who have looked decidedly shaky of late.

     

    BRUNO FERNANDES

    It might be a stretch to predict another 4-0 win for United at home to Chelsea as it was at Old Trafford last season, but few would bet against Bruno Fernandes being involved in the thick of it.

    Since his debut in the Premier League, Fernandes has scored 11 and assisted nine goals, and no other player has reached 20 goal involvements in the competition in that time.

    Chelsea have also conceded three goals in two of their past three league matches.

    RAHEEM STERLING

    Simply put, Raheem Sterling loves playing against West Ham.

    The City forward has six goals and five assists in his past six league starts against the Hammers, a run that includes a hat-trick in a 5-0 win at London Stadium last season.

    In fact, Pep Guardiola has won all nine games against West Ham as a manager, his joint-best record against a single opponent alongside Watford and Bournemouth.

     

    DANNY INGS

    Everton are tough opponents for anyone right now, but that does not change the fact that Danny Ings has always rather enjoyed facing them.

    The Southampton striker has scored in four of his five appearances against the Toffees in all competitions, including in both games last season.

    Only against Spurs (five) has he scored more goals for Saints.

     

    HARRY KANE

    Harry Kane has been flying this season and there is every chance his form continues against Burnley on Monday.

    Kane has managed six goals and two assists in his past four Premier League games against the Clarets and hit a hat-trick at Turf Moor three years ago.

    Spurs have also scored 11 in just two away games in the league this term.

  • El Clasico: Messi's long goodbye to the world's greatest club match El Clasico: Messi's long goodbye to the world's greatest club match

    A Clasico showdown against Real Madrid, or West Ham away?

    Before Lionel Messi steps out onto the Camp Nou pitch on Saturday, remember this: he had made up his mind, and he had chosen West Ham away.

    Playing for Manchester City was Messi's plan for 2020-21, it is believed, and if that meant sacrificing leading Barcelona against their greatest rivals, shucks to it.

    Messi must have thought he had nothing left to prove in this fixture, being already the top scorer in Clasico history with 26 goals across all competitions, way ahead of names such as Alfredo di Stefano, Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul and Cesar Rodriguez.

    Eighteen of those goals have come in LaLiga, from 27 appearances, and he has averaged one goal involvement per game in the league thanks to nine assists.

    However, he has failed to score in his last five Clasico games - three in the league and two in the Copa del Rey.

    This weekend, with the world watching, Barcelona need the real Messi to stand up.


    Still the same player?

    Before the king of the Clasico faces Los Blancos one more time, team-mate Ansu Fati was moved to comment this week that "Messi is still Messi".

    The 17-year-old spoke after Messi's early penalty helped Barcelona to a 5-1 Champions League win over Ferencvaros.

    Yet heading into that game, Barcelona's new head coach Ronald Koeman said Messi's form "could be better", cosseting that in sufficient pleasantries to avoid any blowback.

    As for who is right - Fati or Koeman - it is hard to dispute the experienced Dutchman's verdict.

    Doubtless Fati loves playing with 33-year-old Messi, because what teenager wouldn't relish every minute playing with an all-time great?

    But Messi's numbers are down in the early weeks of this LaLiga season, with his average attempted dribbles per game down from 8.58 in 2019-20 to just 4.75, and his shots on target per game at a relatively meagre 1.75 when he has averaged 2.15 or higher in each campaign over the past decade.

    One goal in four LaLiga matches in 2020-21 equates to his slowest start to a season since 2005-06, when the teenage Messi failed to score in his first four games.

    The Clasico drought

    Those five goalless games in Spain's biggest match have consisted of four starts and one appearance off the bench, amounting to 425 minutes of football without a goal, his second longest run without netting in the Clasico - behind a six-game sequence from April 2014 to December 2016.

    He has failed to score with his last 16 shots in the fixture and has not been on the winning side in a LaLiga Clasico at Camp Nou since Barcelona's 2-1 victory in March 2015, having missed the 5-1 success in October 2018 because of a fractured arm.

    He has not had a goal involvement - scoring or assisting - in the last three Clasico league games, putting him one away from what from that statistical perspective would be the worst run of his career.

    And the goal return from Messi in Barcelona's biggest home league match of the season has been modest - albeit only by his extraordinary standards - for some time.

    He scored twice in a 2-2 draw in October 2012 and netted once when the team played out the same result in May 2018, but those are the only goals he has scored in this LaLiga game since a late strike sealed a 2-0 win in 2008.

    Nobody has scored more Clasico league goals at Camp Nou than Messi's haul of seven, which he launched with a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw back in March 2007.

    But the big-game returns are diminishing with time, or at least that is how it seems.

    Has Messi become a flat-track bully?

    The instinctive response is to challenge the use of such a reductive term to describe a footballer so eminent.

    The transition happens time and again though, from sport to sport. The ageing superstars who once routinely tormented elite rivals serve up reminders of their most glorious days in flashes, often against more limited opposition than before. Case in point: Messi looked sublime at times against Ferencvaros.

    In tennis, Roger Federer can still toy with low-ranked tennis players to the point of doling out early-round humiliations, but will he win another grand slam title, having recently turned 39? No, probably not. Will Messi win another Champions League? No, probably not. It is hard to see it happening at a crisis-hit Barcelona, anyway.

    Messi's haul of 25 LaLiga goals last season was his lowest since he scored 23 in the 2008-09 treble-winning campaign, when Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry were also scavenging for chances.

    But if he is not scoring consistently against Real Madrid, and if he was powerless to prevent Bayern Munich's rout of Barcelona in the Champions League back in August, then where is Messi making his big difference heading into his mid-thirties?

    Since the start of August 2018, in LaLiga he has scored eight goals against Eibar, five each against Real Betis, Levante, Alaves and Sevilla, and four apiece against Real Mallorca, Celta Vigo and Espanyol.

    Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao are the two teams who have defied him throughout that time.

    A leaving present

    If this is to be Messi's sign-off stretch with Barcelona - and given his recent state of vexation that seems highly possible - then it is to be assumed he wants to depart with a swagger rather than a shrug of a season.

    Had Barcelona's board acquiesced to Messi's departure at the end of last term, this weekend's kick-off in El Clasico would have coincided with the Argentinian winding down at the London Stadium after a lunchtime outing for Pep Guardiola's City against David Moyes' Hammers.

    Perhaps Messi would have tuned in for El Clasico on the team coach; perhaps not.

    Messi was prepared to sacrifice the Clasico - the hysteria and the history that surrounds it - and that summed up the schism that had developed between him and the club's leadership.

    He has since lost good friends Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal, offloaded to Atletico Madrid and Inter, and lost some of his sparkle at the same time.

    Suarez and Vidal won't be coming back, but the sparkle still might. There were flashes against Ferencvaros - again, take the opposition into account - but a Clasico against a wobbling Madrid side seems as good an occasion as any for Messi to serve up a reminder of his greatness.

    If he can lift himself for any game, it must be this one.

  • Rumour Has It: Real Madrid's Zidane facing sack, Barca lead Juve in Traore chase Rumour Has It: Real Madrid's Zidane facing sack, Barca lead Juve in Traore chase

    Zinedine Zidane led Real Madrid to LaLiga glory last season as Los Blancos dethroned bitter rivals Barcelona.

    But, Zidane's position is far from certain amid a run of consecutive defeats in 2020-21.

    Madrid are reportedly willing to part with their head coach if he cannot arrest the club's slump.

     

    TOP STORY – ZIDANE FACING SACK

    Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane could be sacked if results do not improve in the team's next two games, according to L'Equipe.

    Zidane is under mounting pressure following back-to-back defeats after Madrid were stunned by newly promoted Cadiz in LaLiga and shocked by Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League.

    The Frenchman – in his second spell in charge of the Spanish capital club – is facing a crucial period ahead of Saturday's Clasico against Barcelona and a Champions League date with Borussia Monchengladbach.

    Madrid great Zidane has guided Los Blancos to two LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies during his time in charge.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - Calciomercato says Barcelona are ahead of Serie A titleholders Juventus in the race to sign Wolves star Adama Traore. The Spanish speedster has also been linked to Premier League champions Liverpool and Manchester City.

    Manchester United and Chelsea are set to rival Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for Gladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, reports Bild.

    - Calciomercato reports Milan are looking to sign Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Lovro Majer. The 22-year-old has already been linked with Borussia Dortmund, Fiorentina, Leeds United, Valencia and Sevilla.

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